Posts Tagged ‘dc’

6 Budget Friendly Things To Do In DC During the Government Shutdown

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

It’s day two of the shutdown and there is no end in sight. Suj and I have gotten a little stir crazy out of the office (probably a sign that we work too much). I know we are very, very lucky to have steady jobs that we both love, especially in this economy, but with talk of the shutdown potentially lasting weeks, I am conscious of the pressure that puts on our budget. In light of all this, we find ourselves with the opportunity to create a list of fun, affordable ways to take advantage of our (hopefully mini) staycation.

Picnic: Grab some cheese, crackers, and fruit and head over to Meridian Hill or Rock Creek Park for a relaxing afternoon on the grass. The shutdown might be a sorry state of affairs, but at least the weather in DC couldn’t be better.

Workout: It’s about time I use that fancy gym membership that I pay for every month! Exercise is not only a great low-cost activity but it is also a way to relieve some of the stress of the unknown. I hit a yoga class at Vida today and was shocked by how empty the gym was. I thought it would be packed in light of the shutdown, but it turned out to be a great time to enjoy my workout. If you don’t belong to a gym, you can always enjoy the quiet streets and run one of these popular city routes.

Sightsee: Just because the federal government is shutdown, doesn’t mean there is nothing to do or see in the DC area. Privately owned sights like the National Cathedral (donation suggested) and Mount Vernon ($17 for adults) remain open to visitors. There are also many private museums open to the public, including the National Building Museum ($8 for adults), National Geographic Museum ($11 for adults), Newseum ($22 for adults), The Spy Museum ($21 for adults), Crime and Punishment Museum ($18 for adults-online discount price), and The Phillips Collection ($12 for adults). These prices, however, are MUCH steeper than the free admission offered at the Smithsonian museums. That is, when the government isn’t on hiatus.


Read: I am finally going to crack open a couple of the books on my ever-growing reading list, starting with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am resisting the urge to make a new kindle purchase and, instead, opting for a free book from one of our shelves. If you aren’t book hoarders like us, a great resource is the DC Public Library. I frequent the Shaw location since it is close to my home, and the staff is so helpful and friendly.

Hang out with friends: The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hosting Shutdown Central where they offer daily activities, such as yoga classes, as well as a space to hang out and play board games, and best of all, free coffee, food, and Wifi.


Take Advantage of the Swag! Local businesses have been amazing–throwing their support behind furloughed government employees by offering all kinds of freebies and deals just for flashing your government ID. The Washington Post has a great list of special food deals offered during the shutdown, including free sandwiches from three Jose Andres restaurants (we cashed in on that yesterday!) and drink specials all over town.


I am really hoping that the shutdown will end soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of a bit of free time in a city I love.

The National Arboretum: best undiscovered date spot ever

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013


A few weeks ago I started making a list of all the places to go and things to see in DC that I haven’t gotten around to doing or seeing. One of the suggestions that came up over and over (thanks internet) was the National Arboretum. Now that we have been, I can say that this place is a must-see! According to Wikipedia, the arboretum functions as a major center of botanical research and conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants.

All great, but the best part, by far, is the bonsai tree exhibit. The trees are completely adorable, and the exhibit is in such a cool, peaceful space. The Arboretum is pretty difficult to visit if you don’t have a vehicle, but that fact seems to contribute to the quiet, peaceful atmosphere (i.e., very few visitors).

At least it was peaceful before we got there…



This place is an awesome date spot. Suj and I picked up some sandwiches before we got there, checked out the exhibits for a while, then had a nice little picnic lunch. We are planning to go back again, probably for a bike ride through the trails (this place is big). In the meantime, I am spreading the word to all my single friends about the bonsai exhibit.

Many of the bonsai trees were gifts to the US from China and Japan.


National Arboretum Bonsai Exhibit. Some of these trees have been “in training” for hundreds of years!


White House Garden Tour

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

MG 0094

Suj and I had the opportunity to attend the fall White House garden tour on a beautiful October afternoon.  The White House property is much larger than I realized.  I felt lucky to enjoy such a bright day surrounded by so much history.  The tour included glimpses of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, and South Lawn, and the White House Kitchen Garden. The grounds are lovely and, though many people were touring the area, it felt peaceful and sort of reverent.  Here are a few of my favorite spots:

MG 0051
{littleleaf linden planted by George W.H. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II in 1991}

MG 0052
{twisty tree}

MG 0056
{bright flowers in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden}

MG 0062
{magnolia trees}

MG 0067
{Truman Balcony}

MG 0071
{view of the mall from the White House}

MG 0076
{quiet seating near the Rose Garden}

MG 0079
{a touch of Autumn in the trees}

MG 0086
{outside the Rose Garden}

MG 0089
{putting green}

MG 0091
{Sasha and Malia’s playground}

MG 0109
{White House Kitchen Garden}

MG 0110

Apartment hunting, football, and the past few weeks

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Whew, it has been busy around here. Just a little recap: Suj and I spent the past few weeks looking for a permanent apartment for him in DC, and after hours on craigslist and attending numerous open houses, I am happy to report that we found an incredible place. He moves in around the first of November, which will be awesome because (1) he is anxious to stop living out of a suitcase, and (2) he will be just a few blocks away from me! The move also means there will be lots of projects and organizing and moving furniture about (so hard to explain why I love moving furniture around) and housewarmings. In the meantime, I am reading up on design and décor so I can be totally ready to offer my unsolicited advice.

Other than apartment hunting, my free time has been filled with a lot of football and mandatory continuing legal education courses. I can’t really say which I enjoy more. Erin has been trying to convert me into a football fanatic, but as of now, I am only ever excited about the football food. (I’m trying. Promise.) As for the CLEs, well … I’m finally done. My work doesn’t pay for the classes like some employers do, so I shopped around for some online bargain courses this year. Unfortunately the inexpensive courses generally don’t feature the most exciting topics (ahem, pre-immigration income tax planning). Oh well, broadening my horizons, I suppose.

On a brighter note, here are some photos of the past few weeks of traveling, exploring, and celebrating nuptials:

MG 0059MG 0058
{beautiful view at the Philip Carter Winery}

MG 0066
{mason jar accents}

MG 0068
{looking glam–thanks Cindy!}

MG 0090
{huge hot sauce selection at the Apple House}

MG 0097
{soju bloody mary at Mandu, in Dupont}

MG 0103
{my ongoing obsession with old globes}

Trivia Night!

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012


There are few activities more quintessentially “DC” than trivia night. Practically any night of the week you can find at least one local bar packed with young professionals coming straight from the office to meet up with friends and show off knowledge about obscure things. Teams are made up of about eight members and the competition features multiple rounds, some of which involve audio or video clips. The winning team gets $50 off their tab, so the stakes are high. Trivia night is a thing, and it is huge.

I have never been great at trivia. Give me a category about old Broadway shows or B-list celebrity relationships and I would dominate, but unfortunately, the questions are usually some combination of word riddles and geography. Not my strong suits. Anyway, I tagged along with Elizabeth to Stetson’s trivia on Tuesday and had a great time with her co-workers. Our team didn’t win, we didn’t even place (did I mention how serious DC folk are about their trivia??); but fortunately, Suj joined us in time to provide much needed help with a nineties-music round. That’s right, my boyfriend was able to correctly identify which “Now That’s What I Call Music!” album featured Chingy’s “Right Thurr.” One of the many reasons I love him.

Lazy summer weekends

Monday, June 18th, 2012
MG 0011{Dupont Famers’ Market}

This felt like the first long weekend I’ve had in a while. It was really nice to relax with friends and enjoy the city a little. On Saturday, I soaked in some sun on my friend, Kerry’s rooftop pool. We ate crabs and talked about recent trips and generally just had a nice afternoon. After the pool, Ashley and I caught the Ramona Falls concert on H Street, which was eventful, but the best part of the night was getting on a bus in a random part of town at 12:30 am and coincidentally sitting right next to Erin (who was coming home from a BBQ)! DC really is a small world.

MG 0010

On Sunday, Ashley and I picked up produce, bread, and (of course) empanadas at the Dupont farmers’ market. That afternoon I listened to an episode of This American Life while pickling cucumbers and making fresh bruschetta (it doesn’t get more “DC” than that). The roomies rounded off the weekend by grilling on the patio Sunday night. I love these lazy summer weekends.

MG 0008{fresh green beans}

MG 0015
{charming rowhouse details}

MG 0045
{pickling cucumbers}

MG 0001
{view from Ashley’s door}

Project Balcony

Friday, June 1st, 2012

MG 0022

A few weeks ago, I set out to revamp our balcony, while sticking to a budget. After a lot of planning, and multiple trips to home depot, the space is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I so wish I had a few “before” shots so that the transformation could be truly appreciated! We have such a great space but we simply weren’t using it because it was so uninviting (nothing but two large tables, flimsy plastic chairs, and a cooler, seriously). But now that it has been transformed into a relaxing outdoor retreat, we use the balcony every day.

MG 0021MG 0015MG 0010MG 0005MG 0024MG 0006

So, having finished the overhaul, here are my tips for deck-orating (couldn’t resist):

First, come up with a game plan. I put a lot of thought into the layout of the space and I tried to think about how I saw us using it. We have a very large balcony and initially set up tables thinking we would frequently dine al fresco. This turned out not to be the case. Like, maybe once did we eat outside. So this time around, I wanted to create more of a conversational atmosphere where we could relax with a glass of wine and chat after work. I imagined a bistro table with a sitting area under the window. Once you have a game plan and a rough sketch of the design it is time to make a few purchases.

Budget. I set a budget of $400 for the entire project. That seemed big enough to cover a table and chairs, bench, and flowers while still being realistic. I love being resourceful on projects like this and I think I could have done the revamp for less, but I was on a deadline and being resourceful takes more time and energy than I had in this case.

So once you’re ready to buy, it’s time to hit up craigslist. In the past I have had a lot of luck with craigslist finds, so that was the first place I turned. I’ve found the best strategy is to go on the site with something specific in mind, so as to not get distracted/overwhelmed. I knew I wanted a bistro set and some kind of bench, and I found a few good options, but nothing perfect. The key to craigslist is patience, but in this case, I was anxious to complete the project. So I went to home depot.

One quick city-specific side note. Doing a project like this in a city, without a car, is a beast. Because of this, I did a lot of research and found furniture options from websites that offer free shipping. Before heading to the depot, I found back-up options online, which gave me good price points and helped me stick to my budget. For instance, I found this bench and this bistro, both offering free shipping (not to mention I had one of those 20% off coupons for BB&B). Fortunately, Matthew and Laura were kind enough to lend us their car for an afternoon, so we avoided the online route, but the research made all the difference because I knew what I wanted and how much I was willing to spend.

We ended up purchasing everything from home depot. The Adirondack chairs were a total score at $36 each and the wodden end table was $12. We stained/weather-proofed them ourselves, which was quite the eye-opener since I learned I am not great with a paint brush (tip: stain them after assembly to ensure all the visible parts get covered). The tiled bistro table was $99 and the chairs were $19 each and we spent about $150 on pots, planters, and flowers. Finally, we converted a glass table that was already on the balcony into a grill station in the corner. We went a little over budget due to additional costs (pillows, broom, stain and brushes, watering can, zip ties, etc.), but Suj saved the budget by stepping in and buying the tile table when I was leaning towards the much cheaper metal version. So glad he did, I simply love that table.

I couldn’t be happier with the results and I am thrilled that we been spending the past few evenings on the balcony. Mission accomplished.

Butter Chicken

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

MG 0033

Last night Erin and I had a girl-date with our friend, Lisa. We decided to be adventurous and cook butter chicken from scratch. It turned out fantastic! Erin was excited to break out her extensive stash of Indian spices, and I was pumped to use my new ginger grater for the first time. We followed a recipe from this book (also found here), which was surprisingly fast and easy (although Erin and Lisa would probably point out that my contribution consisted largely of reading people magazine and keeping up the conversation…). The food turned out delicious and the girl-date was a great success. We can’t wait to have Lisa over again!

MG 0005
{ginger grater}

MG 0006

MG 0021
{prepping the chicken}


Where To Eat – DC: Taylor Gourmet

Monday, March 19th, 2012


I love a good sandwich. Taylor Gourmet is a stylish DC spot with a creative sandwich menu, so I was thrilled when they opened a location in my neck of the woods. Last week, I visited their new 14th street location in northwest DC. The reclaimed-style decor gives the place a cool, urban feeling, but the highlight, of course, is the food (I ordered the “race street” and it was awesome). This place is definitely on my restaurant-list when my folks visit next month.

20120319-092105.jpg{bucket light fixtures}

20120319-092940.jpg{the race street}

weekend notes

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012


Well, I had a wonderful weekend followed by a not-so-wonderful beginning of the week. The good parts? Well first, Suj was in town, which always makes my weekend better. We caught up with friends and celebrated a recent engagement at Lost Society, on U Street, Friday night. Saturday, we headed to the H Street area for an all day birthday party for our friend, Kerry. The highlights included outdoor seating at Biergartenhaus, sriracha cocktails at Church and State, and gourmet ramen for dinner at Toki Underground. Sunday, we made brunch at the house (and broke in Erin’s new waffle maker). We caught a matinee with our friends, Laura and Matthew, then we all took a walk past the white house and grabbed dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar. It was an amazing, action-packed weekend.

The bad part? The roomies and I woke up to find that we had been burglarized on Monday night. Very scary stuff, but luckily everyone is safe and the intruder did not take anything irreplaceable.

I guess I experienced a little of the good and the bad parts of DC life this weekend, but for me, the good far exceeds the rest.

MG 0018

MG 0012{beautiful day for outdoor seating}

20120314-115505.jpg{gourmet ramen at Toki Underground}

MG 0028{grits with red-eye gravy for brunch}

20120314-115541.jpg{one of my favorite neighborhood spots}

20120314-115607.jpg{a stoll through the city}

20120314-115730.jpg{cherry blossoms near the white house}